In order to have a two-way conversation, you must be an effective listener. Most of us have not given much thought or concern to the art of listening.

When it comes to "listening," we think of "hearing," which is only part of effective listening. Hearing is one of the five human senses. It occurs when a sound is transmitted to your eardrum and is delivered to the brain for interpretation. We hear many things that have little to do with communicating. Many sounds do not cause a conscious response. Our mind filters out many sounds and yet processes many others. Everyone's effective hearing is at different levels.

Listening is hearing with your ear, your mind and how you feel about what you have heard. The problem with most of us is that we don't pay attention or focus on speakers when they are talking. We hear what they are saying with our ears, but are not listening with our minds. We hear words, but really do not comprehend what was said, nor do we care what was said. Much is missed in the total communication process.

Often you can see this happen when someone starts talking before the other person is finished. This means that while one person was talking, the listener was developing his or her own statement, often guessing what the other person would say. People who try this are often wrong. Listening requires that you focus on the speaker with both your mind and your ears. It takes practice to be an effective listener.

Here are a few suggestions:

· Try not to think about another subject or even your answer until the speaker is finished. This means you may have to take a few seconds to think about your response or a new question once the speaker is finished.

· Listen with your ears and your eyes. Watch the nonverbal communication and gestures while the person is speaking. Often you can see facial expressions, hand gestures and eye movements that tell a different story or at least modify what is being said.

· Listen for what is not being said. Very often, people hide behind words to shelter their true feelings.

· Many times the words spoken are not really what a person would like to say. "Your price is too high" is often a cover-up for not being able to make a decision.

Have the courtesy to let the other person say whatever he or she wishes to say. Do not anticipate or jump to any conclusions or interrupt the person speaking. When we try to anticipate where a speaker is going, we assume and begin to formulate our response and do not listen from that moment on. Often speakers who realize that they have made a mistake or have misspoken correct themselves, and you may not hear it.

Fully respond to what the prospect has said. Never indicate that you feel he or she is not saying what they truly feel, nor should you make light of what was said. Their attempt of communicating was done honestly and must be answered by taking into account what was said and what you felt they meant in your response. Allow the speaker to correct you or agree with you.

It is belittling for you to show your impatience or lack of sympathy by not hearing the person out. It makes you look as though you are not interested in their concerns and you come across as showing no respect.

Successful salespeople cultivate the art of listening and can see the importance in their relationships in business and in their private lives. Listening allows you to understand the other person and have empathy. It allows you to communicate on a level few people in the selling industry can.